Wednesday 14 November 2018

Independent review of smear tests has not started yet

The review will not be completed in time to help the Scally Inquiry into what happened at CervicalCheck, the Public Accounts Committee has been told.

The review will not be completed in time to help the Scally Inquiry into what happened at CervicalCheck (David Davies/PA)
The review will not be completed in time to help the Scally Inquiry into what happened at CervicalCheck (David Davies/PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

The Department of Health has confirmed that an independent review of more than 3,000 smear tests, which was due to be finished by May, has not yet started.

The Public Accounts Committee heard on Thursday that the review will not be completed in time to help the Scally Inquiry into what happened at CervicalCheck.

Dr Gabriel Scally is currently chairing the inquiry into why women with cervical cancer were not told that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate and the revised test results kept from them.

Committee members also heard that there are now 35 active legal cases, three cases have been settled and there are two potential cases.

Committee members complained they were getting the runaround, and accused the Health Service Executive (HSE) of hollow apologies.

Labour TD Alan Kelly said to HSE director general John Connaghan: “I want a guarantee that Dr Scally will not say he couldn’t complete his report because he was missing information from HSE.”

Mr Connaghan replied that there was no intention to hold anything back, and anything within its remit will be provided to Dr Scally.

An apology is hollow if it is not followed by actions that would stop this happening again Social Democrat Catherine Murphy

Sinn Fein’s Jonathan O’Brien revealed in the committee that he had met with a woman who settled with the HSE last year and says she was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, despite the HSE claiming that those type of agreements had not been used for a number of years.

Representing the HSE, Mr Connaghan and acting clinical director Dr Peter McKenna told the committee that to the best of their knowledge, no other women other than Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathuna had settled cases last year.

Mr O’Brien said: “Well, I have met one woman personally who settled her case in March 2017.

“The woman I met, who developed cancer, and is now fortunately in remission, settled against the HSE for not referring her to another cervical check, and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

Mr Connaghan later said he had “no knowledge” of the case.

It was also raised that around 90 women trying to access their files and slides from the laboratory say they have been prevented from doing so by a protocol implemented by HSE legal teams.

Social Democrat Catherine Murphy told Mr Connaghan: “An apology is hollow if it is not followed by actions that would stop this happening again.

“We’re getting the runaround, if accessing slides is being held up then the apology is insincere to those harmed by the state.”

Mr Connaghan said he would look into the matter as he could not say why there was a delay in women accessing their information.

Labour’s Alan Kelly hit out at Mr Connaghan, saying: “You can’t come in here as the chief of HSE and say, ‘I’ll get back to you’, you’re not doing your job if you can’t get basic answers.”

Press Association

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